Seth Miller with Fernand Bonnet

Kalilou’s Threat

[Editor’s note: The following encounter of retribution against God’s work comes from Malinke project team member Fernand Bonnet, who ministers in the village of Bancoumana.]

“Don’t run away. Don’t run away. I’m going to come back to get you,’ Kalilou breathed.

I had just arrived from a missionary visit and needed to rest. Suddenly, I heard someone outside gruffly calling out in Malinke, “Eh, cè. Eh, cè” (“Eh, man. Eh, man.”). I wasn’t sure what this was all about, so I stepped out to see. There was Kalilou on his motorbike. He wasted no time, addressing me directly, “Don’t run away. Don’t run away. I’m going to come back to get you.” Mixed feelings of fear, anxiety and anger arose within me at this sudden threat Kalilou breathed.

Kalilou’s wife, Mariam, had come to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and the persecutions she faced from Kalilou, before and after her baptism, have been written in past articles by the Malinke Project (see the Tooray article in the November 2022 issue). Kalilou had beaten her and expelled her from his house, feeling that he could no longer tolerate living under the same roof as a Christian. So Mariam finally left Mali for Guinea with her two little girls (aged four years and two, respectively).

Mariam’s flight took place while I was in Guinea to renew my passport, and Kalilou felt he needed a scapegoat to blame for his misery. My ministry partner, Yaya, was primarily involved in sharing Jesus with Mariam but was now in another country studying theology. Therefore, I had become the target of Kalilou’s brewing anger.

“Don’t run away, don’t run away. I’m going to come back to get you,” Kalilou had said. My temperature rose to a certain degree, and I was distraught! Is he throwing a bold challenge at me on my ground? Is he serious? I asked myself. But I kept my composure and waited to see how true he was to his words. However, he didn’t return when I expected, so I left for town.

I went to a friend’s workshop at around 7:00 p.m. and shared the threat from Kalilou to see what advice he would give me. While we were talking, who showed up? Kalilou! I think he returned to my apartment, but since he didn’t find me there, he decided to search around town until he found me. He started talking to people, telling them that I wasn’t a good person and that they shouldn’t associate with me or accept me as a friend. He said I made his Muslim wife get baptized to become a Christian without his consent or approval, adding that his wife had left him because of me.

On and on, he raged. I sat down to listen to him and didn’t utter a word, hoping to prevent the situation from escalating. However, he eventually succeeded in getting on my nerves as his bad attitude toward me became intense. So I reasoned with myself that I needed to stop all of these unjustifiable attacks. In the heat of the moment, I suddenly confronted him, asking if I was the one who told him to send his wife away. When he retaliated by swearing, I stood up to rebuke him for his constant provocations and for following me around. We stood face to face, chest to chest, while calls came from all the people surrounding us to keep it calm. Eventually, Kalilou backed down. To escape the shame, he told me he would send his little brother to beat me up.

People advised me to report him to the police at once because his calloused heart made him very dangerous. I went to the gendarmerie (a branch of the Malian army dealing with public safety) and explained what had happened. I also disclosed that some of his family members told me he once came to my house with a knife, looking for me, but I was away from home that day. The gendarmerie officer was shocked and answered, saying, “A knife? That’s a death threat! No one is above the law.” They immediately gave me the number of the chief gendarmerie of the brigade in Siby and instructed me to call him and tell him everything. One of the local gendarmeries immediately informed the chief about the situation, and the director said I should go there the next day and file a complaint.

I thought intensely about what I should do. If I reported and filed the complaint, Kalilou would be arrested and face heavy fines or imprisonment. So I decided to go to the community’s traditional leaders and make a complaint. They greatly appreciated my choice of seeking their intervention in the issue and not pressing forward with the police case. They felt respected. The village chief immediately sent a messenger and summoned Kalilou and his elder brother, the head of the family. The chief and his counselors settled the case that very night, giving a red-hot rebuke to Kalilou for his “foolish, dangerous and thoughtless behaviors towards an innocent person, especially a foreigner.” Everybody among the elders felt outraged by Kalilou. They assured me that if he attacked me again, the next time, they would tie him up at the village square and lash him brutally for disobeying them and tramping upon their rules. Subsequently, Kalilou apologized to me for his conduct, followed by his elder brother and the village leaders.

When I returned home, I found some fetish elements someone had placed on my doorstep. Who put them there and what they intend to achieve through them, I do not know.

Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we know the devil is never happy when a soul is saved. He always retaliates. But we cannot stop doing God’s work because there is danger in preaching and transforming lives for God’s glory. Let us remember Matthew 10:16. May the Lord bless you for reading this article and praying for those in the field who are persecuted for the kingdom of God!

Please join me in praying for Kalilou. I would like to see a happy end to his story. He could see, like Saul, that this Jesus he is fighting against is the LORD of all and the only One that can help him. Thank you for your prayers and support in bringing the love of Jesus to Mali!

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